How to Lead a Quest for Student Wellbeing

So – you’re looking at doing something about student wellbeing in your school!  You went to a conference, or saw a news item about another school, or you had a positive personal experience and it’s piqued your interest.  Or, even better, you see a need in your school.  Great!  Now, let me guess – you’re wondering what to do next?

There are a metric tonne of ways people are going about it in those other schools, and you’re not exactly sure what to choose…  In fact, you feel that every other school that is ‘doing wellbeing’ is doing it extremely well, and, from their colourful graphics and beautiful glossy brochures on the topic, they appear to be floating through the whole process just as easily as a summer breeze.

As you stop to think about it, it seems to you that those other schools really have their stuff together.  Also, it occurs to you, there are an overwhelming number of places to start.  Where will you start, you think.  And, you recall, with a creeping chill sensation that only money matters can cause – it turns out that you don’t have spare millions in your budget. In fact, you had to push hard just to get that new poetry book that’s on the syllabus!  How much will student wellbeing all cost?  Where do you start with this thing? And when you figure that out – you think to yourself – just who is going to be doing all this?  Do you need to use a Gantt chart?  What the heck is a Gantt chart for that matter? In fact, is it all worth it, you wonder? Goodness, things are looking dark, and we haven’t even started yet!

Don’t panic!  Take a deep breath, and release slowly… one … two … three.  And repeat.  There, that’s better already, right?  The first thing to do is to realise that every other school doing student wellbeing had a starting point, and, if the journey they’ve taken has had any value at all, it has had moments of self-doubt, significant obstacles, and even the odd occasion where they faked their way through and ‘winged it’.  They are normal people just like you, albeit doing extraordinary things in some cases. You have the potential to be just as significant and inspirational in your context.

Alright, that was the first thing.  The second thing is not to go it alone.  Let’s do this student wellbeing quest together, shall we?  Help is at hand!  (Cue ‘Halleluiah!’ chorus here).  So, just what am I proposing here?  Just this, that you and I cooperate – in these posts to the Flourishing At School blog, I’ll try to step you through the minefield of wellbeing, and you, in response, will incrementally try a series of small experiments in your context, gradually wowing the people around you with your foresight and your sound, practical approach. Think of these posts as your secret super-weapon of mass… wellbeing, I suppose.

In sensible language, ‘How to Lead a Quest for Student Wellbeing’ is a series of posts on the Flourishing At School blog which are designed to take you step by step through your quest for student wellbeing in your own context.  In this series of posts, the tone is light, but the science and practicality is rock solid.  The series has been designed by a school-based psychologist – with reference to the ‘greats’ of student wellbeing (think Geelong, St Peters, Knox, and John Paul College), and with the support and oversight of a pair of organisational psychologists.  (If you haven’t heard about what org psychs do, you are in for a treat – organisational psychology is the study of people in organisations.  With that in mind, org psychs specialise in analysing organisations and forming strategies to develop, motivate, and inspire change.  Change such as your upcoming quest for student wellbeing, in fact!)

The quest analogy is borrowed shamelessly from the work of Dr Jason Fox (Jason’s OK with this, I checked).  Dr Jason Fox is a brilliant change management specialist, who has recognised that the normal terms of reference aren’t really up to it when we’re describing making a significant change; one that we are passionate about, one that is relevant and effective, the pursuit of which is likely to lead us up hill and down dale before we ‘arrive’.  Naming it for what it is, a ‘quest’, is much more fitting.

But I digress.  In investigating what to do to develop your own school’s approach to student wellbeing, you are on a very worthy quest indeed; and your cause is just.  But like all great quests, it’s best to be equipped before you dash out into the wild blue yonder.  So, before you expend a lot of energy, time, (and, yes, potentially money), I recommend you read on to the next post…

Next post in the ‘How to lead a Quest for Student Wellbeing?’ series:

 “Why should your school engage with student wellbeing?  Four facts to convince your principal, parents, and school board that you need to do this – now.”

Nahum Kozak | Psychologist
Nahum is a Psychologist who uses the power of story, humour, and data to help improve organisations.  Nahum has a wealth of experience from school and corporate contexts – as Head of Positive Education and Senior School Counsellor (John Paul College), Corporate Coach (including experience with Griffith’s Work and Organisational Resiliency Centre) and Youth Minister (in Catholic Schools across Australia). He holds a B.A.(Psychology), M.Ed.(Educational Research: Theory and Practice), and is currently undertaking a second Masters in Organisational Psychology. He has presented at schools and conferences around Australia, and has had his research on wellbeing, social connection and sleep quality published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry. Nahum is passionate about building healthy, happy organisations.